Mark Twain Saloon & Casino

The Fascinating History of the Mark Twain Saloon & Casino

The Mark Twain Saloon & Casino was built in 1863 and is one of less than 10 percent of buildings that survived the “Great Conflagration (fire) of 1875″. It has almost always been a saloon, but not named the Mark Twain until the mid-1950s when operated by Ed Colletti and Don Magiurk—an Italian and an Irishman—two ethnic groups out of many more than made up Virginia City’s population in its heyday almost a century previous.

Virginia City in 1875

At its zenith, Virginia City had over 35,000 people who lived here permanently, and it is estimated that between the three sister cities that made their way up Gold Canyon there were 100,000 people here at any one time.  It is said that it often took 20 minutes to cross the street—such were the crowds.  And, remember, no indoor plumbing!

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In 1971 Dee Schafer bought the building and became the first-or-second woman to receive a non-restricted gaming license in the state of Nevada. The Mark Twain Saloon of the 40s and 50s was no longer there; instead, the Brown family of fortune tellers rented the premises. Dee Schafer had just recently purchased  Nevada’s first newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. Samuel Clemens took his non-de-plume while working there as a reporter from 1862-64. It was because of this association that she decided to name the saloon the Mark Twain. It was much to her chagrin that on her opening celebration old-timers brought in various souvenirs from decades before. So, Mark Twain Saloon & Casino was meant to be and has been in continuous operation under the Schafer family for over 47 years.

Today the Mark Twain is Virginia City’s preferred stop for gambling. It features an exceptionally convivial staff as a player’s club with many promotions to benefit the gambler.